One-and-a-half years into the Mahathir administration, Malaysian law firms are highlighting major legislative developments, pitfalls and trends that need immediate attention to electrify the nation’s business environment
Mahathir Mohamad’s second stint as prime minister of Malaysia (he previously held the office from 1981 to 2003) is 18 months in, and while his government wrestles with issues of corruption and transparency, there are key areas of business that are in need of some fast tracking.
Having won on a platform against a legacy of systemic corruption, erosion of the rule of law, economic malaise and anti-race-based politics, his administration has spent much of its time cleaning up the former government’s finances.
“They have started addressing corruption, such as with the National Anti-Corruption Plan, which was well received by both public and private sectors, and you see cases going to court, but also hear of continued corruption … but it’s a very good start. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day,” says Wong Jin Nee, a partner at Wong Jin Nee & Teo in Kuala Lumpur.
The nation has shown improvement in its performance indicators in several important international studies and indexes, including the Edelman Trust Barometer Global (public confidence in the government), Corporate Governance Watch Report, The Economist’s Democracy Index, and the World Bank’s (on the ease of doing business).
Among the key initiatives of the new government were the adoption of the ISO 37001: Anti-Bribery Management System international standard, a new code of conduct for members of parliament, an asset declaration policy, a bill on political donations and an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct bill.
But while these legislative measures are aimed at improving transparency in government, there are several other regulatory reviews proposed that will have a more direct and immediate impact on the country’s economy and business environment. Some are well placed, while others are awaiting positive regulation, and the real question is whether the government can move these along fast enough.